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Islamic Perspective on Caring for Cats

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“Mom, can we get a cat?!”

 

Recently, a friend asked me what it is like to have a cat in the house. You see, her young daughter has been asking for one and she is hesitating because she is a very busy mom masha'Allah and knows well that she will be the one responsible for its daily care; however, and despite not being much of a cat person herself, she is considering it for her daughter and other children. So, I advised her - not because I am an authority on cats by any stretch of the imagination but because I happen to love cats and alhamdulillah have some experience caring for them. This thread will serve as further assistance for my friend and others facing a similar dilemma: to get a cat - or - not to get a cat. 

 

Okay, before we get too deep into this business of cats, we should first answer a few very basic, preliminary questions (click on the short answer to link to detailed answers according to the Hanafi school of jurisprudence insha'Allah):

 

(1) Is it permissible for us to keep cats as pets?

Short answer:  yes

 

(2) Is it a sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallem) to keep cats as pets?

Short answer: no

 

(3) Can we keep cats as indoor pets?

Short answer: yes

 

(4) What about our prayers? What if the cat walks in front of us as we pray. Won’t it be sinful?

Short answer: no

 

(5) Are cats pure?

Short answer:cat hair and saliva are pure; whereas urine, feces, blood and vomit are impure and are considered major filth.

 

 

 

~~~

 

Now that we are equipped with these answers and may be warming up to the idea of answering our child in the affirmative, we should take a moment to consider each of the following:

 

* is everyone on board?

* Are we ready to commit to its long-term care?

* have we considered allergies and other health concerns (e.g. pregnancy)?

* how are cats with babies and young children?

* what should we look out for to make sure the cat's temperament matches our family?

* Where should we go to get a cat?

* Are we okay with an older cat or should we insist on a kitten?

* What should we feed the cat?

* What should we take into consideration in terms of the its medical care?

* Are there any legal requirements we need to be aware of?

* Will our neighbours mind?

* What will we do with the cat when we travel?

* Are there any issues with our home and garden environment we should consider?

* What types of supplies will we need?

 

Misty (our current cat) and Tiger and Precious (two of our past cats) will serve as examples for the points above.

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Is everyone on board?

 

We have to remember the rights of others when deciding on the issue of bringing home a cat. If some are opposed to the idea of having a cat share their space, we need to be mindful of that and not impose it on them. Otherwise, we create hardship for all involved - including ourselves.

 

 

Are we ready to commit to its long-term care?

 

If we are in a situation where some do not want a cat or we have not considered all things, we could find ourselves in a fresh dilemma: the cat has got to go but... where?

 

This may seem like a silly issue to some but those of us living in areas where feral cats colonies are kept in check (i.e. you hardly ever see a 'street' cat), it does indeed become an issue.

 

The fact of the matter is that in such places, cats are often surrendered to local pet shelters where, despite efforts to keep all animals alive, some are euthanized due to lack of space. Those that are kept (usually younger cats and kittens), are kept in cages awaiting adoption. Therefore, it behooves us to think carefully before we take on the care of any animal - the cat has a right to proper care and treatment, not to have its space limited to a crate or euthanized for our shortsightedness.

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Have we considered allergies and other health concerns (e.g. pregnancy)?

 

Okay, so our child may not ask: "Mom, I want an allergy, can I get one?!" or "Mom, I want a hookworm, can I get one?!" However, the way we build our homes in some parts of the world where snow and cold winters keep us all indoors for long stretches of time, they might as well ask it! Or, with little hands digging in the same garden as our feline friends, they might as well ask it!

 

Without getting too obsessive about it, we should pay attention to see if anyone in our family is allergic to pet saliva, dander or hair, or has asthma. We should also be educated about possible health risks and work to minimize risk to ourselves and our families as much as possible.

 

Allergies

Depending on the severity of the allergy or other problems (e.g. asthma), having a cat in the house could pose an undue hardship for family members. That said, allergies can develop anytime and some resolve so be mindful of this before committing to the care and wellbeing of a cat. Also, consider your options should something like this develop in the future and how you will deal with it.

 

As an example: Misty, our short-haired Russian Blue mix, certainly activates my allergies – particularly the kind that make you want to gouge your eyes out! That said, my allergies seem to be activated more-so whenever I hold her, or neglect to wipe surfaces often. 

 

Misty’s previous family had her for about 5 years before they had to find her a new home. Unfortunately, their daughter developed allergies as well as asthma which made it necessary for them to not only find a new home for Misty but also to get rid of all the carpeting in their house. Luckily, Misty did not end up at a pet shelter where, due to her age and temperament (bit of a grumpy cat, quick with the sharp claws), she may have been a candidate for euthanization.

 

Some suggestions for allergy sufferers:

* keep the cat out of your bedroom

* wash your hands and face after you play with or hold the cat

* minimize surfaces that hold and trap hair and dander (e.g. carpets)

* to remove hair and dander, sweep and wipe surfaces often

* air the house as often as possible

* consider options for allowing your cat outdoors more often (if at all... see next section)

 

For more information on allergies, click here.

 

Zoonotic Diseases or Zoonoses

These are diseases that can be transferred from cats to humans and vice versa and include:

* bacterial infections (e.g. cat scratch disease)

* parasitic infections (e.g. fleas, roundworms and hookworms)

* fungal infections (e.g. ringworm)

* protozoan infections (e.g. cryptosporidosis, giardiasis, and toxoplasmosis)

* viral infections (e.g. rabies)

* allergies (see previous section)

 

Some suggestions to help protect yourself and your family from zoonotic diseases:

* wash hands after handling cats

* wear gloves while gardening and wash hands afterwards

* have your cat vaccinated against rabies

* schedule routine annual checkups for your cat

* avoid letting your cat lick you or anything you use to eat and drink with 

* consider keeping your cat indoors to minimize exposure to certain diseases

* seek medical attention for cat bites

* remove feces from litter boxes daily (***pregnant women, children, and those with suppressed immune systems should avoid any contact with litter ***) 

* Periodically clean and disinfect litter boxes (***pregnant women, children, and those with suppressed immune systems should avoid any contact with litter ***) 

* if you have a children's sandbox in the yard, cover it whenever it is not being used (do this even if you don't have a cat)

 

For more information on zoonoses, click here and here.

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How are cats with small children?

 

Cats are very sensitive to sound and most cats appreciate gentle handling. If you have young children, you might want to be careful in choosing a cat that is mellow enough to endure the inevitable poking, prodding and rough handling of little hands, not to mention loud sounds and cries. Cats have different temperaments and there are some that are quite intolerant while others will tolerate almost anything. While most cats will avoid rough handlers if given an avenue of escape, it is better to choose carefully and to slowly but surely integrate the cat into its new environment while educating children on proper handling.

 

 

What should we look out for to make sure the cat's temperament matches our family?

 

Bearing in mind that we have a responsibility to provide proper care for our families and any animal we bring into our homes, please take time to go as a family to visit with the cat you plan to adopt. See how you, your spouse, and the children respond to the cat and how the cat responds to you all. This should be done without calling attention to the possibility of adopting the cat since children will more than likely be quite excited and happy; but, conversely, heartbroken if the match is not right.

 

Also, it might be worthwhile to visit friends and family with cats of different temperaments to see what works and what doesn't. Since the visit will be in an environment the cat is comfortable with, it will not be stressed and you can sit back and observe without worrying too much.

 

One other suggestion is to offer to cat-sit in your home. This may be a bit more stressful for all involved but it will give you a much clearer picture of what to expect since all responsibility will be on your shoulders during its stay. There are ways to reduce stress for the cat and insha'Allah I will list those in a later post. 

 

Here are some suggestions on what to pay attention to:

 

 

  • The cat should approach your kids readily, and display affection. Purring is a very good sign.
  • When handled, the cat should not nip or scratch.
  • Handle the cat yourself, fairly aggressively. Don't hurt the cat, but pet firmly all over to make sure she doesn't bite when touched.
  • Does the cat cringe or try to hide when subjected to sudden loud noises? If so, she might not be the best choice for families with very young children.
  • If the cat cowers or hides in a corner, she might not be a good choice in a raucous family environment.

 (source)

 

Additional considerations to bear in mind are: the cat's breed (to some extent), its history, and age. Younger (i.e. kitten) is not necessarily better and most cat shelters provide a brief history and cautionary notes on the cat's past life (if known) and behaviour. 

 

 

More on raising children with cats in the home

 

 

Some cats enjoy children, but not all felines can tolerate sticky fingers, rough tugs on the tail, or the general boisterousness that accompanies kids. Before you adopt a cat, find out which breeds do best with children and discuss the decision to get a pet with your kids. They're likelier to accept some responsibility for the pet if you lay the groundwork and they feel involved.

 

Training Your Child

Small kittens are easily hurt when mishandled by a well-intentioned but rough kid, and larger cats can strike out when provoked. Here are some rules to teach your children about handling a cat:

 

Gently approach the kitty to see if he wants to play. If he seems preoccupied with other thoughts or is sleeping, leave him alone until later.

 

Instead of wrestling, use teaser toys, rolled up balls of paper, or socks to play with the kitty. If you play with your hands, the cat will think they're his personal toys and that it's okay to attack hands and other human body parts.

 

Don't bother your pet while he's eating, grooming, using the litter box, or napping.

 

Show your children the correct way to hold a cat and remind them that if kitty starts to squirm, let him down gently. Don't try to hang on - you'll only end up suffering a wrathful scratch or nip.

 

Stroke your cat's coat gently in the direction the fur grows. Let your kitten determine what they will allow to be petted. Some kitties don't like getting petted on their tummies, hips or feet, so it's best to avoid these areas.

 

As much as you'd like your cat to sleep on your bed, it's best that he find his own spot to rest. Cats are more active at night so allowing them in your or your children's bedrooms may result in sleep-interrupted nights because your cat may want to play.

 

Advice for Parents

Supervise your children when they play with the cat. Also remember that infants and toddlers don't understand the difference between their stuffed cat and your live pet, and an angry exchange between child and cat can flare in an instant.

 

Always supervise a child under 6 when she holds a pet. It's a good idea to only allow a child of that age or younger to be sitting while holding the cat or kitten. Never let a young child walk around holding a pet.

 

Don't be surprised if the new cat frightens your young children. From their perspective, he's a hissing, scratching toe-biter who pounces out from nowhere. In time, they'll learn to check under the bed skirt before climbing out of bed in the morning.

 

Training Your Cat

Cats and children can become such good friends that sometimes your cat forgets your child is not one of his littermates. For example, rowdy play can cause a kitten to nip his brother, and childish exuberance can get the same reaction.

 

Discourage hand-biting verbally with a No, and offer him socks or other toys to nibble. If the kitten is still wound up, try a few minutes of kitty time-out in a quiet room. Even better, encourage your children to play quieter games with the kitten to prevent this behavior entirely.

 

(source

 

 

~~~

 

An example of what not to do and a suggestion on how to amend it:

 

One of the first cats I brought home for my son was Tiger. He was meant as a 'surprise' gift for my son and so I hadn't taken him with me to the pet shelter when I went to pick Tiger up. While my son really loved Tiger, he was not the best fit for my family. Unfortunately, we found out the hard way by enduring a few months of him stalking the shortest member in the house (at that time, my son), and pouncing on any exposed toes and legs - scratching and biting in play. My son tolerated Tiger, fearful I would take him back. After a few months of trying to train the poor cat, who was loved and seemed content in our home, I finally called a no-kill group in our city about our little problem and inquired if there was any way we could exchange him with one of their fostered cats. Alhamdulillah, they did and Tiger went to a new home (without children), while we brought home Precious - a timid, mild mannered cat that had, had a litter of kittens and had acted as a surrogate mother to kittens who had lost their mother. Precious was almost the complete opposite of Tiger in every way and would meow as if she was profusely apologizing, often letting out a very light: "me-he-he-he-he" (as if saying "I'm-so-so-so-sorry").

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What should we feed the cat? (Part I)

 

Here, we need to consider both the source as well as the nutritional content of the food we plan to feed our cat. Consider the following:

 

* Do you have a halal source of food for the cat?

* Cats have very specific dietary needs and it is important to take care to meet them in order to allow them the most physical comfort. While there are a few ‘all fish’ kibble formulas commercially available, many advise against an ‘all fish’ diet due to concerns over mercury levels in the food.

* If commercial halal cat food is not available, look into what and how to prepare meals that are safe and nutritious for the cat before you pick it up. Know what you are getting into before you commit.

 

Insha'Allah, I will cover these issues in detail in the following posts.

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What should we feed the cat? (Part II)

 

Is it permissible for us to purchase and feed our cat commercially available food containing ingredients that are not halal and/or that contain un-Islamically slaughtered meat?

 

Short answer: No, it is not permissible.

 

To expand, lets take a look at a few fataawa and commentary from scholars (hanafi fiqh).

 

 

Mufti Ebrahim Desai of Ask Imam answers a related question as follows:

Question:

I have a cat and have been told that it is not allowed to buy tinned cat food for him as the meat inside is haram..instead I should buy halal meat and prepare it for him.? please clarify

 

Answer:
"It is Haraam to consume Haraam food. Similarly, it is Haraam to take any benefit from the Haraam food. To buy or sell Haraam food is also Haraam. 
Therefore, it is not permissible to buy Haraam food to feed the cat. Halaal meat should be used. (Fataawa Rahimiyyah vol.10 pg.138; Darul Ishaat)" 

 

"and Allah Ta'ala Knows Best "

 

-Mufti Ebrahim Desai 

 

 

Mufti Yusuf Mullan answers a related question as follows:

Question:

Cats and purchasing pet food that contains un-Islamically slaughtered meat: is it allowed? 
 

Answer:
bism01.jpg

 

Wa alaikum salaam,

 

It is haram to buy this cat food. The prohibition against buying or selling unislamically slaughtered meat (maytah), for the reason mentioned in the question i.e. its having no property value is established through absolute textual proof. There is scholarly consensus on this issue.

 

For an alternative to commercially sold pet food, visit http://www.pet-grub.com/ and other similar web-sites. Simply use islamically-slaughtered meat when preparing the meals.

 

It means caged.

 

And Allah knows best.

 

Yusuf Mullan

 

 

Mufti Ebrahim Desai answers another related question as follows:

Question:
can u feed your pet dog with pet food thatis not halaal?

 

Answer:

It is not permissible to feed any animal with Haraam food. 

 

and Allah Ta'ala Knows Best 

 

Mufti Ebrahim Desai

 

 

Mufti Shafiq Jakura answers a related question as follows:

 

Question: 

Is it permissible to feed ones pet cats, canned foods which contain haraam meat or chicken?

 

Answer:

bism01.jpg

 

It is neither permissible to purchase Haraam meat/products nor to personally directly feed it to one’s pets.

 

Mufti Shafiq Jakhura
Iftaa Department, Darul Ihsan Islamic Services Centre
 
I concur with the answer:
Mufti Zubair Bayat

Ameer, Darul Ihsan Islamic Services Centre

 

 

Mufti Husain Kadodia comments in answer to a related question:

 

The masalah has nothing to do with the animal eating food which is haram for a human. It isn't Mukallaf - ordered to obey laws- thus the laws of halal and haram don't apply to it.

 

The masalah is based on whether it is permissible to feed someone or something, haraam food. As eating haram meat is not permissible, thus feeding haraam meat to anyone or anything would also be forbidden.

 

Yes, if you leave the meat lying somewhere, then the animal eats it - ie. u never fed it, but rather it found the food itself and ate it- then it is permissible.

 

And Allah Ta'ala knows best

 

 

Maulana Muhammad Yasin Achhodi comments in answer to a related question:

 

The issue here is not about feeding, it's about "buying" Haram meat. Amongst Muslims in the past, this was not an issue as all the meet was slaughtered mainly locally, surrounding farms. Now it's coming from overseas, there's mechanical slaughtering and many other things. 

 

So it's about buying Haram meat... No Muslim should be okay with that and I'm certain no one is happy, content or okay with buying Haram meat for any purpose inshaAllah.

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